A unique concept gives citizens a tool for remedying the drying Czech landscape and adapting to climate change.At the end of September, the third wave of training for local coordinators of water retention in the landscape took place at the Benedictine monastery in Broumov. The training was organized by the association Živá voda (Living Water), which has been developing a model approach to the Czech landscape over the last few years under the leadership of its chairman Jiří Malík, with the aim of restoring its ability to retain water and adapting it to the advancing climate change.
The project, called Together Against Drought, began in April this year and is being implemented thanks to support from the Active Citizens Fund grant scheme of the Open Society Fund consortium, the Olga Havel Foundation’s Committee of Good Will and the Scout Institute. So far, over 70 local coordinators from all over the Czech Republic have been trained in the project. In the second, one-year phase, the work of local coordinators will be carried out in localities selected by them. Under the guidance of the project team, the coordinators begin to collect documents, negotiate with representatives of municipalities, with important owners or farmers, involve other citizens in the activities, and above all, map the condition of their area in detail so that they can propose and then participatively promote specific measures to increase water retention in the landscape and resilience to flash floods. At a time when persistent drought alternates with intense rainfall and flash floods, this raises the hope of creating a broad civic platform that will work to repair the Czech landscape, from below – from the local level.
This project is quite unique in that through a combination of technical know-how, training and practical experience in the landscape, it enables the graduates of the training, under the guidance of experts, to understand the state of the Czech landscape and come up with proposals for solutions to phenomena that are increasingly common today, such as pedological and hydrological drought, erosion of agricultural land, flash floods and biodiversity decline.
„The Living Landscape model was originally called the Zdoňov model after the first location in the Broumov region where we started mapping. The whole process of genesis of the basic know-how with a number of unique innovations took us 3 years. The aim of the know-how at the feasibility study stage is to restore the original hydrological regime of the valleys and to connect them with new landscape lines along contours by means of boundaries, border strips, etc. The result is a so-called contoured landscape. We have already prepared feasibility studies for three sites – besides Zdoňov, also for Křinice and Heřmánkovice – with a total area of around 60 km2. At present, this is the largest area in Central Europe and the only one to have been processed in such a comprehensive manner. We are able to transfer the developed procedure to a layman during intensive training, so that it can be shared (replicated) under our guidance elsewhere in the Czech Republic, says Jiří Malík, the author of the project.
The training brought together a diverse group of participants. There are councilmen and women, mayors, environmentalists, a lawyer, a water management official, a doctor, planners or architects and many civically active people who move things in their communities. But they all have a common concern – they are worried about the worsening drought, flash floods and the devastated Czech landscape. Thanks to the Together Against Drought project, they have gained a platform where they can share their experience and expertise and mutually contribute to the successful implementation of feasibility studies in their localities. One of the participants in the training is Jakub Šimerda, the mayor of the small village of Bolehošt’ in the Hradec Králové Region. „Our municipality has plans to prepare projects to improve water retention in the landscape. The first larger pond project is now underway. We are also preparing the revitalization of the Chropotín Creek along the future wastewater treatment plant. At the training I met people with the same need to return water to the landscape. We shared our experiences with previous projects and I now have a clearer idea of how to proceed.“
The training was also attended by Zuzana Šalplachtová, a geochemist and active citizen from Semily:„I wanted to know how to help the landscape around me to regenerate. So that I and my children could live here. So that we have water, so that we have healthy land to farm on, so that we can be as self-sufficient as possible and live in a place that is as adapted to climate change as possible. In the place where I live, this is of particular interest to the ‚riparian‘ people who have come from the cities and have a tremendous appreciation for the local landscape and nature. I am looking for a way to show this view to the locals who take the landscape around them for granted, which has always been there and ‚always will be‘. I have been looking for ways to go about this and the training has clearly shown me the possibilities. It has given me perspective, deeper insight and the support of great people and experts behind my back that I can turn to at any time. On top of that, I met a lot of inspiring people at the training. It gives me hope that there is a chance to move forward from the current mess.“
The Living Water Group is now launching a website, spolecneprotisuchu.cz, which will facilitate the further development of the project: it includes a basic explanation of the Living Landscapes model and an interactive map of the local coordinators, showing either their chosen catchment areas or the locations where they operate. Anyone who would like to join a similar activity can find a coordinator in their area or sign up for a future training session.
There are 3 other entities working in partnership on the Together Against Drought project, the non-profit organization Beleco, which has been working for many years on nature conservation, among others in relation to agricultural land use, the Onsendo association, which teaches future local coordinators how to run their own project and all the necessary negotiations. Thanks to the Maiwald Academy of the Broumov Educational and Cultural Centre, the training can take place in the beautiful premises of the Broumov Monastery.
„The Together Against Drought project was supported by the OSF Foundation as part of the Active Citizens Fund program, which aims to support civil society and strengthen the capacity of non-profit organizations. The program also aims to inspire active citizenship and help disadvantaged groups. The Active Citizens Fund program entered the Czech Republic in September 2019 with the aim of supporting nonprofit organizations regardless of their size and experience. In the Czech Republic, it is administered by a consortium consisting of the OSF Foundation, the Committee of Good Will – Olga Havel Foundation and the Scout Institute. The programme is implemented under the EEA and Norway Grants 2014-2021. Through the EEA and Norway Grants, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway contribute to reducing economic and social disparities in the European Economic Area (EEA) and to strengthening cooperation with 15 European countries. Cooperation between the Czech Republic and the donor countries is also an important mission of the programme. It is a cooperation between Czech non-profit organizations and organizations from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.“